Whenever it was my birthday and I had to blow out candles on the cake, someone would suddenly yell, “Make a wish!” And my mind would always race to find something to wish for. When I was around 9 years old, I thought I had figured it out: I’d just wish “to be happy” – it encompassed everything!

Since then, I have been chasing this elusive happiness. It would be found one day, I thought, if I did well enough in school or life, if I achieved something great, or was able to afford anything my heart desired.

Then, I would be happy. However, I now know that happiness isn’t a finish line. I accomplished many of my goals, yet still felt empty. It was only when I started studying Positive Psychology that I began to understand the real key to happiness. It is neither something to be found, nor a goal to achieve. While accomplishments do contribute to our happiness, several other less obvious elements are just as crucial, and working towards increasing each of these will contribute to our overall well-being and happiness. They are:

1. Experiencing positive emotions. It can be simple things, such as playing with your pet, spending time with a loved one, or enjoying a delicious meal. Life is made up of the little moments, and increasing our happy experiences will increase our overall happiness.

2. Be fully present in each moment. I’ve learnt to put away my phone, to really listen and spend time with loved ones, and to immerse myself in something I enjoy, such as sports. To be fully engaged is when we experience what is known as a “state of flow”, and being in this state regularly is vital to our well-being.

3. Relationships are one of the largest contributors to human happiness. Pick quality over quantity. Real connections, the courage to be vulnerable, and knowing one is loved, heard and supported are the things that set happy people apart.

4. Work – while not usually associated with happiness, it contributes much to one’s well- being. Finding meaning from our work and activities is what we should all strive for.

5. Finally, small habits such as regular exercise, finding time to be in nature, and learning to take stock and be grateful – these all add up a lot more than we realise.

I have since realised that happiness hides not in targets, but waits patiently to be found in moments and journeys. I hope you give happiness the space and time to be discovered in 2021.

This article first appeared in the February 2021 issue of Her World.